When Cole and Mia got to the restaurant, Cole was very uncomfortable. He didn’t know how he got rooked into this. But two of his most favorite girls in the whole wide world had his back, so he figured he could get through it.
They sat down at the table and Mia was laying it on thick. She kept touching him, making his skin crawl. It was all he could do not to pull away. He was relieved when the waiter handed them menus.
Right after they ordered drinks, he heard female voices behind him. When Mia’s expression changed from flirty to irritated, he knew. The Calvary had arrived. He felt his body relax slightly when he saw them begin to walk by the table.
But then Dannie stopped walking…and turned towards them. He almost stopped breathing. NO DANNIE! he screamed in his head.
“Hi Cole! Mia,” she said, only giving Mia a cursory glance. “We are here for a girl’s night out. Hmmm? Cole, you are like one of the girls, why don’t you two join us?”
What the fuck? That wasn’t part of the plan. One of the girl’s? Damn Dannie. Cole began to perspire.
“That’s okay,” came Mia’s sugared reply, “We are having a private discussion. Aren’t we Cole?”
Cole quickly nodded his affirmation.
“Okay then. Well, if you change your mind, looks like we are right over there,” said Dannie, and motioned to where Zahara and Nicky were seated two tables over. Dannie turned and winked at Cole as she walked off. He quickly looked away.
After they got their drinks, he risked a glance up and saw them sitting there, giggling. They are enjoying this way too much! he thought.
“The nerve of her,” said Mia.
“Huh? What?” asked Cole not really hearing what she said.
“That was just so rude of them to interrupt our date,” she explained. She looked at Cole and cocked her head, “You and Dannie really are just friends, aren’t you?” It was more a statement of fact than a question.
Cole offered her the best smile he could summon. “Yes. I told you that before when you asked. Why do you care?”
Mia smiled at him through her lashes. “Because, I like you,” she said.
Nicky gave Cole a look and held up her phone. Then the trio of girls started taking selfies of each other, giggling loudly so Mia would look around. She finally turned to see what they were laughing about.
Cole cleared his throat. “Um, Mia. You want to do one too?”
Her face lit up. “Yes!” she squealed, “Let me come over there.”
Mia got up and walked over to him, smirking at the girls at the other end of the room. She threw her arm around Cole, pulling him towards her, and took a picture.
Cole started to move away and Mia pulled him back over, “Wait! Let’s get another one. You weren’t smiling.”
As soon as Mia took the second picture, Dannie got up and came over to them. “Oh. You two look so cute, let me see!” she gushed. Cole hid behind the dinner menu while Mia readily handed her phone to Dannie, a smug grin on her face.
As Dannie started walking over to her table with Mia’s phone, she called out to the other two girls. “Look how sweet they look!” she said. When she got to them, they all pretended to be looking at the pictures of Mia and Cole. Mia listened to them oohing and aahing over their picture and rolled her eyes.
After they all had a turn looking, Dannie walked back over with Mia’s phone. She scrolled through the pictures as she walked, sing-songing her commentary on each one. “Oh loooook, here are pictures of the proooom… and here’s me in my purple dreeessss.”
Awww damn…here we go, thought Cole and took a deep breath.
“And Noah and Azzyyyy. Ohhh, she’s gorgeous. But, geez, they needed to get a room!” said Dannie, then laughed. “Actually, I think they finally did.”
“We gotta go, don’t we Cole. Let me have my phone Dannie, so we can leave,” said Mia, trying not to sound upset.
Dannie completely ignored her. “Oh snap, Ryker and Laney. Ugh . . . Screw ’em both!” said Dannie vehemently.
“Let me see that!” said Cole, really mad now that he maybe had proof. He wasn’t pretending anymore.
“No Cole,” said Mia sweetly. She shook her head gently back and forth. “You don’t want to see that.”
“I DO want to see it Mia!” he ground out.
Mia sat there, helpless to stop what she knew was coming.
“Here you go,” said Dannie. She walked over to where Cole was sitting and handed him the phone while Mia glared at her.
Mia started rambling. “The bitch was acting like nothing happened! She cheated on you and then pretended to be sweet and innocent. I would never do that. She always gets what she wants. She didn’t deserve someone like you Cole. She woulda just dumped you anyway when she got bored with you. I’m much better than her. I would treat you right, make you happy.”
Cole almost felt sorry for her, almost, but not quite. “No Mia. You couldn’t,” he said much calmer than he felt.
Cole laid down her phone with shaking hands and got up. “Let’s go,” he said to the girls who had assembled protectively around him like guard dogs.
When they got outside, Cole stood back and watched while Nicky and Dannie high-fived each other. He hadn’t seen Nicky that happy since before they broke up. Dannie was ecstatic too.
Then they hugged each other. Sadly he felt like a fool and an outsider.
“That was the coolest!” squealed Zahara, “Nicky, thanks for inviting me to be a part of that. It was epic! Wait until I tell Berto! He will be sad he missed it! It will go down in history as the biggest take down ever! And I got to witness it. Props to ya’ll!”
They all high-fived again, dissolving into fits of giggles, making Cole even more uncomfortable.
Dannie looked over at Cole and walked over. He tried to give her a smile but couldn’t quite do it. He was glad he figured out Mia’s game before he fell into her trap, but now, he needed to get to Laney before Mia did.
Dannie walked over to him. “Hey,” she said softly, “You Okay?”
“No. Not really, but thanks for doing this. I needed to know. I was such an idiot.”
Dannie put her hand on Cole’s shoulder in an effort to comfort him. “No, Cole. She had me fooled too. She’s evil. I seriously think she has a problem.”
Cole sighed. “You girls go on,” said Cole, “I need to go see Laney.”
“Cole,” said Nicky wincing, “I texted a pic from Mia’s phone to Laney – evidence. You better hurry.”
Awww fuck, thought Cole as his shoulders slumped. He waved to the girls as they left, still giddy and giggling from the high of getting to Mia. Cole dug out his phone and found Laney in his favorites. He touched her name as his heart pounded in his chest. She agreed to meet him at the coffee bar in 20 minutes.
Cole walked up and Laney was already there, sitting at an outdoor table. She looked so sad staring into her coffee. His Tiny Dancer – but no longer his. He desperately wanted to take her in his arms and make it okay. But knew it was a bad idea.
“Hey Laney,” he said softly, as he lowered himself into the seat next to her.
She barely glanced up. “Hi,” she said, her voice devoid of emotion.
“You look nice,” said Cole, and knew instantly that was dumb. It’s just he had no idea how to even begin.
Laney looked up at him, confusion on her face. “What is going on? I thought you couldn’t stand me,” she said, tears sparkling in her eyes.
Cole shook his head. “No. That’s not true. It just that, it hurts Laney. I saw pictures….and I can’t just unsee them and pretend nothing happened.”
“Is that why you had Mia text me the picture? To torture me? I know I fucked up, okay. And Cole, I’m truly sorry.”
“No Laney, I didn’t ask Mia to do that,” said Cole gently, “I would never do something so mean. Actually, Nicky sent that picture from the pictures in Mia’s phone. Mia doesn’t know that she did it. Well, she might by now. But the point is, Mia is the one that told me what happened between you and Ryker. Well, she didn’t exactly tell me. She taped an envelope on my locker with that picture and three others. There was a note inside that said, ‘Thought you might like to know what your girlfriend does while your not around’.”
Laney leaned in and looked at Cole, “That’s not true. Mia wouldn’t have told you. She’s my friend.”
“She did it, Laney. She even admitted it was her. She’s jealous and maybe a little nuts.”
Cole could see in her face when she accepted what he said as the truth. “We thought it had blown over,” said Laney quietly. She put her head down and squeezed her eyes shut for a minute. A fat tear escaped out of the corner of her eye, and rolled down her cheek. “I told her I had been worried for nothing – that you weren’t going to find out and everything was going to be okay. I was so happy. And then two days later, you found out, and broke up – without even giving me a chance to explain.” Laney wrapped her arms around herself.
“I’m sorry Laney. I had just seen the pictures when you walked up and I couldn’t think straight. I just reacted.”
“Nicky didn’t tell you? Or Dannie?” she asked.
Cole felt terrible. He shook his head slowly and said simply, “No.”
“So why did you come here then? To rub it in my face? To tell me that not only did I lose you, but also my best friend?” More silent tears rolled down Laney’s face.
“No. Of course not,” said Cole wincing. He had to resist the urge to reach out and take her hand. He felt terrible. She was right. He didn’t give her a chance to explain. “I wanted you to know, before Mia had a chance to try and twist it all around. Laney, you need a new friend.”
She looked at him and he could see the hurt in her eyes that matched his own. “No, what I need is you….Cole. Please,” she begged, still hugging herself and slowly rocking back and forth. “Can we try again? I miss you so much.”
Cole sighed and scrubbed his hands over his face. “I miss you too Laney. More than you know. But I need a little more time. It’s still too – raw.”
“Cole, you need to know. We didn’t do anything. After that stupid kiss, I realized I shouldn’t even have been there. I asked him to take me home. We both knew we messed up. He still likes Dannie. And Cole, I do love you.”
Cole closed his eyes for a moment before he could respond. “Don’t Laney. Don’t say that.” He had to get out of there before he grabbed her and kissed her tears away. Being this close to her was not good. He needed to put space between them. “Look, I gotta go,” he said, then stood up to leave.
He stopped at her words but didn’t look back.
“How much time?” she asked softly.
Cole closed his eyes again and took a cleansing breath. He hazarded a glance back. “I’ll call you,” he said, and kept walking.